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Thai prisoners clean sewers in Bangkok after delaying pandemic

#Thai #prisoners #clean #sewers #Bangkok #delaying #pandemic

A Thai prisoner struggles with an overflowing bucket as he and his fellow inmates clean Bangkok’s clogged drains for the first time in two years.

Before the pandemic, convicts could volunteer to clear the sewers of the Thai capital, which sits just 1.5 meters above sea level and is plagued by constant flooding, to earn a break from their sentences.

But fears of spreading the virus meant the gutter work has so far been done by city authorities and workers.

“It’s quite a tough and tiring job,” said a 33-year-old inmate, who was not allowed to give his name, adding, unsurprisingly, that the work was “stinky.”

He is one of about 80 inmates who were transferred from three prisons to an east Bangkok suburb to work, earn money and get a day off from their sentence for every working day.

“I still want to do this job so I can go home to my family sooner,” explained the man, who wore a light blue baseball cap and dark blue prison uniform.

After pulling up the concrete slabs that cover the drains, the inmates — wearing protective waders and heavy-duty gloves — drop down and scrape out the dirt, filling large iron vats with fetid slop.

They work all day, fueled by donations from grateful shopkeepers who are delighted that the drains in front of their shops are finally clear.

“This is the first time since the pandemic” that prisoners’ drains have been cleared, said a guard at the Bangkok Detention Center, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Once dubbed the “Venice of the East,” the capital city is hit by flooding during the rainy season — roughly July to October — with clogged drains contributing to it.

“The increased cleaning at the beginning of the rainy season helps drains (remove water) faster,” said a Bangkok Metropolitan Administration official.

And for at least one of the prisoners who served less than a year, cleaning out the sewers helped him better understand his past.

“We made mistakes in life, so we end up in prison,” he said. “Having the chance to come out and help the public makes me feel really good.”

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#Thai #prisoners #clean #sewers #Bangkok #delaying #pandemic

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